The Colosseum is one of the most recognizable architectural monuments both in Italy and around the world. For almost two thousand years the majestic amphitheater, located in the center of Rome, has attracted millions of visitors who wanted to see it for themselves.
The name Colosseum comes from the Latin word colosseus, which means “huge. This is how it seemed to the Romans at the dawn of our era, when most buildings did not exceed 10 meters in height. Modern tourists appreciate the size of the amphitheater differently because skyscrapers have changed our sense of scale. But it’s important to understand that what makes the Colosseum special is not the height of its walls, but the cultural and historical contribution it has made to civilization.
Save on travel!
Video: Colosseum, Italy
History of the Colosseum
Emperor Vespasian, who ascended the throne of the Roman Empire in 69 A.D., spent enormous sums to restore places of worship (such as the Capitol). But in 72, he decided to take on a more ambitious project and commissioned the best builders in the region to erect the Flavius Amphitheatre, which would forever leave his dynasty’s mark on world culture. Vespasian also had an ulterior motive. The foundation of the Colosseum was laid on the site of a lake near the Golden House of Nero – the predecessor and enemy of the new ruler. Such construction completely erased traces of its existence from the map of Rome.
According to historians, the construction of the amphitheater was attended by about 100 thousand workers, most of whom were prisoners of war and slaves. After eight years of grueling and non-stop work, the Colosseum was fully completed and approved by the Emperor.
Colosseum Colosseum inside
During the first centuries of its existence the building really occupied an enormous place in Roman life and always reminded them of its founder, because up to VIII it was called the Flavius Amphitheatre. Regular gladiatorial fights, animal battles and festive performances were held here. In addition to entertainment events, executions were also carried out here, which was the reason why Emperor Constantine I stopped using the Colosseum. During the Middle Ages it was either neglected by the authorities or used as a memorial site for the early Christians who had been martyred. All this led to the fact that until the 18th century no one thought of the need to reconstruct and restore the Colosseum, and many of its parts were irrevocably destroyed.
At the end of the 19th century, the Catholic Church decided to resume work around the amphitheater in order to preserve as many of the surviving elements as possible. Thanks to this change of attitude towards the monument, the Colosseum began to attract the attention of historians, architects and art historians, who in a few decades managed to turn the once forgotten structure into a symbol of European civilization.
In 2007, the organization New Open World Corporation held a competition in which residents around the world could take part in voting and choose those buildings, which in their view are worthy of the title of the New Seven Wonders of the World. First place went to the Colosseum, which was the only landmark on the list representing the heritage of European culture.
Night panorama of the Colosseum
Structure and architecture of the Colosseum
According to the rough estimate of scientists, the modern Colosseum is only one third of the original building, but even this fact in no way diminishes the greatness of the structure. At the beginning of our era, when all citizens of Rome flocked to the Colosseum to see another gladiatorial battle or a theatrical performance, around the arena on seats 50 thousand spectators could easily be seated, and up to 18 thousand more could watch performances standing up. Nowadays, the capacity of the Colosseum is much smaller, but this does not prevent thousands of guests from coming to the iconic place.
An ingenious solution, which greatly lightened the construction: 240 huge arches in three tiers, faced with travertine outside, surround concrete and brick ellipse, the length of the walls of which is 524 m, width – 156 m, height – 57 m. It was a revolution in world building: the invention of concrete and terracotta bricks. It took about 1 million of them to build the Colosseum.
The fourth solid tier was completed later. Today, it has holes in the cornice where supports were inserted to quickly stretch the huge tent over the arena and amphitheater. It protected spectators from the rain and the scorching sun. On the sidewalk of the Colosseum you can see poles, the purpose of which is still debatable. According to one version, the tent ropes were additionally attached to them; according to another, the 5 remaining bollards served as turnstiles for restraining and ordering the crowd.
Inside the ancient amphitheater the vaulted galleries were places of rest for spectators and brisk trade. At first sight there are so many “hole” arches that they resemble numerous honeycombs in a bee hive, but at the same time there is no monotony among them. Each is at a slightly different angle to the sun and to the viewer, so the shadows fall on the arches in different ways. Note – they are uniform, but not ordinary!
The arches of the Colosseum Gladiators on the walls of the Colosseum
The first tier of the Colosseum contains 76 spans through which you could enter the amphitheater. Even today you can see Roman numerals above them numbering the entrances. This atypically large number of arches allowed to significantly increase the carrying capacity of the amphitheatre – if necessary, the spectators could leave the Colosseum in 5-10 minutes. Buildings with such architectural organization are not found anywhere else in the world today!
Another interesting idea to lighten the construction of the Colosseum were the supports of different styles, which, in addition to protection from collapse, made the structure look more airy. In the first tier, the heaviest, made of stone, there are semi-columns of Doric order, in the second (concrete) – Ionic, and in the third – Corinthian, with ornate, foliate capitals.
It was believed that the apertures of the second and third tiers were decorated with statues of white marble. None of them, however, has been found, which has caused historians to argue whether they actually existed or were only in the design.
The upper tier of the Colosseum
The elliptical shape of the arena gave neither gladiators nor doomed animals a chance to escape the bloodshed by huddling in a corner. The floor of the arena was paved with planks, which could be easily removed when it was necessary to fill up with water the place where the sea fights were presented. Slave chambers, animal cages, and other service quarters were arranged later, in the basement beneath the arena, as was an elaborate system of turning stages and other devices that created special effects during performances. Most of the interior decoration has not survived. However, despite the damage one can get a good look at the layout of the rooms beneath the arena. It is possible that the animals, the gladiators and the wings were lifted into the arena by cargo elevators.
It is interesting that for a long time, tourists have visited the amphitheater only at night, to admire the beautiful lighting of the building. But scientists wanted to return the historical glory of the Colosseum and developed fascinating guided tours. Guides are trying with their stories as much as possible to immerse listeners in the atmosphere of bygone times, when the foundations of the Flavius amphitheater were just laid, thus allowing to see something more than the ancient ruins.
Bread and circuses!
Panem et circenses, “bread and circuses” – that was the motto of the grand amphitheater in the center of the city for centuries! People wanted to be fed – they craved entertainment. The Colosseum provided them with an ample program of deadly duels and bloody carnage.
The first officially documented protest against the arena’s brutal performances dates back to 404 AD, when a monk, Telemachus, shouted and jumped from his place on the podium to demand the fight be cancelled. The enraged spectators stoned him to death. The last gladiatorial fights and animal trampling were held in 523, after which the Colosseum fell into decay. In the seventh century a monk wrote, “As long as the Colosseum stands, Rome stands. If the Colosseum falls, Rome will fall with it.
Video: Aria – Colosseum
Opening hours and ticket prices
Until recently, the approach to the Colosseum was open around the clock. But the authorities of the Italian capital realized that this could have a negative impact on the state of the building and hurried to install the guards. Now the amphitheater is open only for daytime visits from 9:00 to 19:00 in summer time (April-October) and from 9:00 to 16:00 in winter time (November-March). But do not despair if during daylight hours you could not get here, because in this case, urban planners have decorated the outer walls with beautiful illumination, which is a highlight of night Rome.
In the year there are only two days off when tourists can not visit the attraction – December 25 and January 1.
Admission and sightseeing program will cost 12 € for an adult visitor and 7 € for a child (+2 € for the exhibition activities). Schoolchildren, students and seniors have the opportunity to buy a discount ticket, but you must have the appropriate documents. The purchase itself can be a bit problematic. The thing is that most tourists decide to pay the entrance at the walls of the Colosseum, so by 10:00 there are long lines to the ticket office.
If you want to save time and money – order tickets on the website of the complex or buy them in advance sale places. In the latter case, you can get a document that allows you to visit several attractions at once.
Order online – www.pierreci.it (service available in Italian and English) and www.ticketdic.it (available in Italian, English and French) – 10,50€, 12,50€ (with exhibition). Single ticket – with the Palatine Museum, the Roman Forum – valid for one day from the date of purchase.
Information Center phone number: 399 67 700.
Near the Colosseum you can take pictures with gladiators The Colosseum at night
How to get to the Colosseum
Most international flights land at Leonardo da Vinci airport, which all Italians call Fiumicino. It is located 20 km from Rome itself, but this small distance is not so easy to overcome, given the intensity of traffic in the direction of the Italian capital.
Very often, tourists go from the airport to the city by train, which depart from one of the terminals. The ticket price is 14 euros, and the trip takes about 35 minutes. But in this case, consider that you get only to the city train station, from which you have to go to the hotel by another form of transport.
If you are traveling in a large group, it would be more logical to take a cab near the walls of the airport. These are white cars signed “Comune di Roma” that are the property of the city and therefore have fixed fares. The minimum fare is 40€, and then it depends on the location of the hotel.
The way to the Colosseum
In addition, several bus companies operate regular flights from the airport to various parts of the city. The cost of such transport can vary from €9 to €20, so it’s worth checking the price list on the website of the company you’re interested in beforehand.
Once you’re finally in Rome, getting to the Colosseum shouldn’t be too difficult. The majestic amphitheater is located at the Colosseo metro station of the same name in the center of the city. Tickets cost 1€ and allow about 75 minutes of underground transportation.
Bus numbers going to the Colosseo: 60, 75, 81, 85, 117, 117, 175, 271, 571, 673, 810, 850. Also runs a streetcar number 3.
Colosseum in Rome – the most detailed information with photos. Interesting facts about Colosseum, history and location on the map.
Colosseum (amphitheater of Flavius)
The Colosseum is a grand amphitheater in Rome, one of the most famous structures of Antiquity. It is a true symbol of the Eternal City and one of its main attractions. The Colosseum is properly called the Flavius amphitheater – after the dynasty of emperors under which the enormous structure was built.
The Colosseum was built in only 8 years. Construction began in 72 AD under Emperor Vespasian, and ended in 80 AD under Emperor Titus.
Having become emperor after the despot Nero, Vespasian decided to consolidate his power. He came up with an interesting idea for that – to tear down Nero’s palace (Golden House), which together with the park occupied 120 ha of the center of Rome and build imperial institutions, and to fill in the pond near the palace and build a grand amphitheater for people’s entertainment.
The amphitheater was built by slaves who were brought to Rome after Vespasian’s military victories in Judea. Scientists estimate that 100 000 slaves were used to build the Colosseum. Slaves were used for the hardest works – extracting and delivering travertine from Tivoli to Rome (about 25 km), lifting weights, etc. A large group of sculptors, artists and engineers also worked on the decoration of the Colosseum.
The Colosseum in ancient Rome
The opening of the Colosseum was marked by grandiose games. The amphitheater was the center of ancient Rome’s violent spectacles for nearly three and a half centuries – gladiatorial fights, animal travesties. People and animals were killed here to the amusement of the crowd and the patricians. Until the Emperor of the Roman Empire banned gladiatorial fights at the beginning of the 5th century. It was then that Christianity became the main religion of the great empire. And its one of the most colossal structures would know its saddest times.
The Middle Ages and modern times have left strong scars on the amphitheater: first the invasion of barbarians led the amphitheater into disrepair, then it was a fortress for the noble families, in the middle of the 14th century a strong earthquake collapsed the southern wall of the amphitheater. The great structure became a source of building material – it was broken down and dismantled for the construction of new buildings and church cathedrals and palaces.
This continued until the mid-18th century, until the Colosseum came under the protection of Pope Benedict XIV.
The Colosseum is now under state protection. The rubble, if possible, has been put back in place. Yes, the amphitheater has lost its former inner and outer appeal, but even so it is simply stunning. Despite the protection the Colosseum still suffers – the urban environment, exhaust fumes and vibrations are not good for the giant.
The Colosseum nowadays
The Colosseum is shaped like a giant ellipse. It is the largest amphitheater in antiquity, striking for its size – the outer axis is 524 meters long, the size of the stage is 85 x 53 meters and the height ranges from 48 to 50 meters.
The walls of the Colosseum were built from large pieces of travertine. The amphitheater had many entrances and exits. The lower rows were reserved for the rich. The simpler people occupied the upper rows. To protect them from the Roman sun masts were used to stretch a giant tent over them.
The Colosseum inside
Interesting facts about the Colosseum
- The amphitheater was originally named after Flavius, the dynasty of emperors who built it. The name Colosseum was fixed only in the 8th century and comes from the Latin word colossus.
- The foundation of the building is 13 meters thick.
- Thanks to engineering and design solutions spectators could fill the amphitheater in 15 minutes and leave it in 5 minutes. Some of the solutions that were used in its construction, are still used in the construction of large sports facilities.
- The amphitheatre had 80 entrances and 76 staircases.
- The Colosseum had a capacity of 50,000 people (some reports say 70,000). More than some modern stadiums!
Colosseum at night
Opening hours and ticket prices
- 08:30 – 16:30: November-February
- 08:30 – 19:15: March-August
- 08.30 – 19.00: September
- 08.30 – 18.30: October
- Adults – 12 euro.
- EU citizens from 18 to 25 years old – 7,5 Euros
- Free of charge for children (under 18).
Tickets are valid for 2 days from the date of first use. With these tickets you can also visit the Roman Forum and vice versa. There’s a little trick: there are usually long lines at the ticket offices of the Colosseum, so you can buy tickets at the Forum ticket office.
Video about the Colosseum
€200 for a guided tour
Hidden corners of Venice
Medieval, graceful, and fragile: a tour through the city’s most authentic quarters and its soul
€120 per excursion
Rome – a sightseeing tour of the major sites and the undiscovered ghetto
Trace the city’s path from Antiquity to modern times and learn about the inhabitants of the past and present